Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, dismissed a conspiracy about the attacks on U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya during an appearance on Fox News on Tuesday, undermining a storyline actively promoted by the conservative news network.
On Friday, Fox aired a special about a new book from five commandos who were guarding the CIA annex in Benghazi on the night of Sep. 11, 2012. They claim that the chief of the CIA annex in Benghazi gave a stand down order that prevented forces from rescuing U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens and other Americans. The charges echoed long-standing theories, perpetuated by Republican lawmakers and conservative commentators, claiming that the Obama administration bongled the rescue mission and later sought to cover it up.
But Rogers, whose committee found that no such “stand down” order was given, defended the station chief’s momentary hesitation and accused lawyers connected with the men and their book of lodging sensationalistic claims in order to sell more books.
“The problem is what happened was the commander on the ground, this guy they’re calling Bob, when these folks came up, they got in the vehicle and said, ‘we made a promise, we’re going,’ he said, ‘wait a minute. I need to figure out a, what’s going on and b, if I can get you any better weapons and maybe even some help to go,” Rogers explained, adding, “it was the commander on the ground making the decision. I think it took 23 minutes before they all, including that commander, by the way, got in a car and went over and rescued those individuals.”
Asked about accusations made by the commandos’ lawyer that intelligence committee sought to intimidate and dismiss the men in order to protect former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Rogers bristled.
“The lawyers asked that none of their testimony be released until after their book was out and being sold,” he said. “I think you have lawyers who have a financial interest in this certainly making allegations that are far from true.”
Obama administration and Defense Department officials have repeatedly debunked claims of a “stand down” order. In February of 2013, Joint Chiefs chairman, Gen. Martin Dempsey explained to the Senate “these are not aircraft on strip alert” and then-secretary of Defense Leon Panetta testified that “without an adequate warning, there was not enough time given the speed of the attack for armed military assets to respond.” The Republican-led House Armed Services Committee similarly concluded that U.S. military would have been unable to respond in time to the attacks.